Updated: May 5
It’s that time of year. Rarely can you hear the word “Draft” in a sports setting and not immediately expect the word “Mock” to be mentioned within the next five seconds. Let’s just level set on Mock Drafts a bit. They really don’t mean a ton. Particularly in the PLL. There are PLL coaches who do not give even the slightest damn about who the experts think they’ll take, who they should take, who will be available, any of that. They all have a list on a board, with the players they want, in the order they want them. Some positional needs may push guys around on draft night, but every mock draft you read might have Player A going to the Atlas, but if the top of the Atlas board isn’t Player A, none of those mocks really matter.
Years ago I used to do these more with an eye on trying to “be right” and get the picks correct. See if I could predict just how the draft would go. If you wanted to, you could even game the system a bit. In the old days, drafts were done ahead of time and then aired later. If you were so inclined, you could get the results ahead of time and know what happens. The PLL Draft is happening live on ESPNU, so unless Rachel DeCecco or Paul Rabil text me the pick as they walk to the podium to announce it, I probably won't be spoiling any this year. I do not enjoy trying to be right or anything anymore anyway. It doesn’t feel like a worthwhile exercise. It’s basically just for me to try and say I got it right so I must know a thing or two about drafts, rather than to actually offer anything meaningful or any analysis about how the draft might go. If the point is to be right, I have missed the point. So here’s how I tend to do these mock drafts now.
Team by team, we’ll take a look at what I would consider to be their needs, look at players that might help address them, and try and throw out a few big board names that make sense for them to target. I will also throw out some names that the team might be better off avoiding drafting, either for fit reasons or depth chart reasons. Not every player is a fit for every team, and fit is important. After two days of media availability, we’ve heard from all eight coaches, and that’ll certainly informs on fit for player and team.
After breaking that down, I will, because we just have to do it, give you a list of picks in draft order. I do not expect to be right about much of it. Because being right is not the point. Let’s look at some needs:
The Bulls are in an interesting spot. Usually in pro sports, the team with the first overall pick in the draft is there because they need a rebuild or a culture change. The Atlas need neither. They are championship ready. So new Head Coach and GM Mike Pressler needs to get the guy who is an impact player, a rare talent, but also the guy who won’t come in and need to be the center of the offense or defense. At media availability, Pressler said specifically that when he was looking at midfielders, he wanted more complimentary guys. Players who do damage without the ball, and not just big, downhill dodgers and initiators. The second half of that sentence is literally Sam Handley. It was one of the major moments from media day in my eyes. It signaled, to me, that the Atlas won’t draft Sam Handley; they don't consider him to fit what they are doing. And I agree with Pressler’s assessment. It's passing on a unicorn, but stranger things have happened. It’s a defensive all timer of a class, they could use some help on defense particularly with Tucker Durkin’s retirement probably coming sooner rather than later. Take your favorite of the poles at one, maybe even your second favorite and three to try and rob everyone else in the draft of the talent, and then see what happens.
Players to target: Gavin Adler, Will Bowen, Tye Kurtz, Xander Dickson, Alex Simmons
Players to avoid: Sam Handley, Matt Campbell, Tucker Dordevic
The Woods right now, on offense, look a bit like a team mid transition. Kavanagh was traded for John Piatelli and Matt Rahill. Piatelli had a solid indoor season. Ryan Lee is back, Eli McLaughlin was signed, Wes Berg was signed, Charlie Bertrand was great indoors, John Grant Jr is on the sideline as OC. See where this is going? Are the Woods copycatting the Chaos? Not quite. A transition to a strong indoor style on a PLL field doesn’t leave a ton of room for guys like Myles and Sergio to be primary weapons. That said, Head Coach Nat St Laurent said during media day they are looking at some guys who have already been taken in the NLL Draft. Thomas McConvey has already gone 1st overall in the NLL Draft. As they continue to adapt their offense, they need versatility. Guys who can do it all, be successful in the field game or the box game, and seamlessly make that work. The defense feels solid, even as good as this group is, it’s tough to knock any of Epple/Glazener/Cohen out of the lineup. Depth never hurts, and some help at SSDM would be nice. They should also be in the market for some faceoff depth late, or early if the specialists slide.
Players to Target: Thomas McConvey, Tye Kurtz, Dylan Watson, Alex Mazzone, James Reilly, Brian Tevlin
Players to Avoid: A reach on a defenseman, Garrett Leadmon, Jack Myers
Coach Soudan really put his cards on the table on media day, and there was no harm in doing so. What he would be targeting in the draft won’t surprise anyone. He is facing a summer without Brendan Nichtern for stretches, including three weeks to start the year and possibly more weekends after. Soudan said he thought Jackson Morrill at X and Dylan Molloy on the wing, as they did in the bubble season, was a set that he liked. An offensive player who is comfortable primarily at X but can be fluid to the wings would be a solid addition for them in Nichtern’s absence. Soudan also said this could be the last year for Jesse Bernhardt and/or Mike Manley, so defensive depth is a priority, particularly at LSM. They have a cornerstone guy already in JT Giles Harris, we’ll see who’s available to them at four and then later in the draft.
Players to Target: Sam Handley, Tucker Dordevic, Jack Myers, John Geppert, Alex Mazzone
Players to Avoid: Max Waldbaum, Tye Kurtz
The Archers have a bit of a tougher read, because of all their roster turnover. They have a remade rope unit, a new look attack, a new face in net on defense, there’s a lot to deal with there. If they add on offense, you’ll want to be someone who does their best work as a passer, and a sharer of the ball. Even with the changes, a lot of mouths need feeding. The more players you have who can distribute and find shooters like newly acquired Mac O’Keefe, the better. That’s not their biggest need, but they could come away well there in this draft. The question marks for them are around the faceoff spot. Justin Inacio should be cleared to return this summer, but it would be prudent to add another specialist as he gets back to game form. Coach Chris Bates said Warren Jeffrey is expected to return on the defensive end of the field, so close defense feels firm. Scott Ratliff’s retirement means there’s some space at LSM to be filled behind Jared Conners. It’ll be about defensive depth for them, and possibly addressing some needs on the rope unit in the event of World Championship and NLL impacting player availability.
Players to Target: Payton Rezanka, Mike Sisselberger, Kyle Long, Sam Cambere
Players to avoid: Tucker Dordevic, Jack Myers
Coach Stagnitta talked about needing another dynamic midfielder to create for them. Someone who can put pressure on a defense, draw slides, another elite threat. The goal is to take some pressure off Matt Rambo, Zed Williams, and Brad Smith. To me, it was a sign that the Whips plan to maybe go offense first in the draft. The Whips have, historically, been picking near the end of the first round every year. It’s a good problem to have, they’re there because they always play for the title. This year it’s the middle of the first round, and in a defense heavy draft, a chance to maybe grab one of the top two or three rated players they have on their board on offense. The Whips defense is of course still excellent, but aging. Another defender that can be foundational for the future will be there for them in this draft, they should take him. They also should grab one of the faceoff specialists available as Joe Nardella is not a total lock to miss the summer, but it is a guarantee that he’s going to miss meaningful time. Bailey Savio is on the roster but the Whips have no other options. Drafting one specialist and maybe grabbing a third from the pool for camp should help Stags find the stopgap for Nardella.
Players to Target: Brett Makar, Tucker Dordevic, Kyle Long, Garrett Leadmon, Chris Fake, Petey LaSalla
Players to Avoid: Dylan Watson, Jack Traynor, Tye Kurtz
Coach Andy Towers made it clear he'll prioritize fit more than anything. I've heard that the Chaos have a "no assholes" policy when it comes to the locker room. Towers said they want guys who have a loose personality, but are hyper competitive, and will step into any role required for team success. It was no surprise that the Chaos were really the only team (except maybe Chrome) to go through free agency without bringing in a new face. An outsider. Their core is their core. That said, they had to make cap decisions and let Mac O'Keefe and Challen Rogers go. It's an opportunity for Kevin Lindley, who is off the holdout list this summer, to step into a role as a complimentary player on attack. It makes sense for Towers to make that spot a competition and draft for there as well. Towers also said he had no regrets about picking Jeff Teat and Jared Bernhardt in the past, noting that the upside was worth the risk, and he'd do it again. A project pick, someone who might not be there for you right away but pay dividends down the road, is always a possibility for the Chaos.
Players to target: Tye Kurtz, Owen Grant, Brian Minicus, Dylan Watson, Thomas McConvey, Elijah Gash
Players to Avoid: Matt Campbell, Kyle Long
Waterdogs are picking last in the first round, and don’t need to do much. Coach Andy Copelan said they didn’t plan on being as aggressive this go around, because they don’t need to be. They’re the champs after all. The Waterdogs also have their core essentially locked up through next summer. The need here is simple: be a guy who can contribute, make the team better, and not upset the locker room or the culture. Fit in, do your job, follow the lead of players like Currier, McArdle, and Ward. I think some offensive depth will help, as Copelan did say they won’t be rushing Mikie Schlosser back from injury. If he isn’t 100%, he’ll stay out. So a player who can be fluid between offensive spots and can be the physical dodger and presence that Schlosser can be is helpful. Jake Carraway fits in nicely for Ryan Brown, and the team has four attackmen that can move between three spots. Some depth there, given Michael Sowers injury history, is probably a good add. Another SSDM with DeNapoli retired also helps this group. Additionally, Jake Withers is on Holdout for at least the first few weeks of the season, so faceoff depth with Zac Tucci is a good plan.
Players to target: Jack Myers, Zach Cole, Garrett Leadmon, Quinn McCahon
Players to avoid: Brian Minicus, Max Waldbaum
Already extremely active in free agency, the rebuild is clearly on for the Cannons. The only trade scenario that Coach/GM Brian Holman said he’d really consider was moving back to acquire more picks, so it looks like the Cannons will stand pat at the ninth pick. There won’t be a ton of interest in trading into that spot, so it seems unlikely that the Cannons move the pick. The offense has plenty of new faces, most notably Marcus Holman and Matt Kavangh. With Lyle Thompson and Asher Nolting, the Cannons have plenty of ball dominant players. Ryan Drenner is a capable shooter, Jonathan Donville and Stephen Rehfuss do everything. The offense for the Cannons is coming together well. Jeff Trainor was a great two way add, but another two way midfielder might help. Otherwise, Coach Holman mentioned the defense as a place they might try and improve, particularly in a class this deep. With the poles this good, first round defensive talent might be available to him at the 9th pick.
Players to Target: Chris Fake, Cade Saustad, Troy Hettinger, Jeff Conner Players to Avoid: Brian Minicus, Matt Campbell
Here’s how all that translates into a mock draft. This won’t be right. It probably won’t be close. Trades will happen, and I’m not out there trying to guess who’s trading. Every coach over two days of media availability, every single one, said they’ve had talks about trades. They’ll happen. Most coaches expected them to happen on draft day. Coach Pressler said they will take their decision on what the do at #1 overall to the 11th hour. But I don’t want to be right, I want to try and get players and teams aligned on the best fit between player and need, and do the draft that way. It’s very rare this is how it goes. But here’s the Sticks In PLL Mock Draft
Atlas - Gavin Adler
Redwoods - Thomas McConvey
Atlas - Will Bowen
Chrome - Sam Handley
Archers - Payton Rezanka
Whipsnakes - Tucker Dordevic
Chaos - Owen Grant
Waterdogs - Matt Campbell
Atlas go defense first, adding the two best poles in the draft, and at the same time cutting the position off to each of the seven other teams. The Bulls defense is now set for multiple years, with these two plus CVR. The Woods take McConvey, further adopting a box influence with a player who can do just about everything well and won’t need the ball as much to do damage. Chrome take the gift that is Sam Handley at four. Archers surprise a bit and take the, by far, best SSDM available to have a true defensive midfielder in their rope unit. The Whips waste no time and go offense first, getting the best dodging middie in the draft. Chaos take the natural fit of Owen Grant, a perfect player for their locker room and scheme. Waterdogs grab Matt Campbell to take on the Schlosser role. When Mikie returns, the midfield is deadly.
Cannons - Brett Makar
Redwoods - Tye Kurtz
Atlas - Xander Dickson
Chrome - Jack Myers
Archers - Mike Sisselberger
Whipsnakes - Peter LaSalla
Chaos - Brian Minicus
Waterdogs - Zach Cole
Cannons thank their stars one of the big four defenders made it this far and grab Brett Makar. Woods go even harder, taking Delaware’s Tye Kurtz perhaps a bit earlier than projected, in a pick that feels like Junior makes personally. Atlas get the complimentary offensive piece that Pressler is after in Xander Dickson, as the Slim Reaper can score in bunches without ever dodging. Chrome take Jack Myers, who can play at X for them with Nichtern out, move to wings, and in a pinch, possibly run out of the box. Archers start the faceoff run here, taking top prospect at the spot Mike Sisselberger. It starts the position run, as the Whips grab the closest thing in the draft to Joe Nardella, Peter LaSalla. The Chaos take Georgetown’s Brian Minicus, who is a known to the team and staff both through hometown connections and the fact that he dodges on Jack Rowlett at Hoya practices. The Waterdogs grab Zach Cole to fill in for the Holdout Listed Jake Withers and compete with Zac Tucci.
Chaos - Alex Simmons
Redwoods - James Reilly
Atlas - Brian Tevlin
Chrome - Alex Mazzone
Archers - Kyle Long
Whipsnakes - John Geppert
Chaos - Jeff Conner
Waterdogs - Garrett Leadmon
Chaos add another box heavy player and shooter in Alex Simmons, who is far too under the radar right now. Woods add the last of the big four faceoff specialists in James Reilly. Atlas add a solid offensive minded two way option in Brian Tevlin, something they actually don’t have a ton of. Chrome build up the LSM spot and bolster the defense for the future in one pick by grabbing Alex Mazzone, who can play both spots. Archers take a pass first midfielder in Kyle Long, as more passers and distributors on an offense with that many shooters will leave defensemen’s heads spinning. Terp John Geppert joins the Whips as they get younger on the defensive end, and the Chaos add a solid shooter and two way middie in Jeff Conner. Waterdogs close out the round with Garrett Leadmon, who may go earlier than this in reality. Another versatile midfielder, comfortable anywhere, just like Coach Copelan seems to like.
Cannons - Chris Fake
Redwoods - Wilson Stephenson
Atlas - Quinn McCahon
Chrome - Troy Hettinger
Archers - Sam Cambere
Whipsnakes - Max Waldbaum
Chaos - Elijah Gash
Waterdogs - Chet Comizio
Cannons use their second of two picks to go defense again, stealing Chris Fake late. Redwoods add an excellent help defender who can play both spots, rolling the dice a bit on injury history, with Wilson Stephenson. Another offense first two way middie goes to Atlas in Quinn McCahon, and then the Chrome again bolster the defense. No college coach knows the Chrome culture and Coach Soudan quite like John Galloway, and he can attest that not only is Troy Hettinger a fit for the team, he's a steal this late. Archers grab an LSM to fill the departed Ratliff’s shoes and serve as an understudy to Jared Conners in Sam Cambere. Whips take another offensive player who can physically win matchups at the attack and pairs perfectly with Matt Rambo in Max Waldbaum. The Chaos take the biggest project in the class in Elijah Gash. His measurables are off the chart, his lacrosse skills are still developing. Coach Towers can take a risk on upside, and Gash could be lacrosse Giannis. Waterdogs close it out with a SSDM to join their unit in Villanova’s Chet Comizio, a surefire All American this year.